This time of year, teachers get a wistful look in their eyes as we think back to days gone by, when social skill were as much a part of our curriculum as the 3 R’s. We know that social skills are important, and that many of our students could benefit from a bit of direct instruction in the matter, but alas, testing strategies prevail, and social skills fall to the back burner. Perhaps not today. I would like to share with you my favorite read aloud story for this time of year which will allow you to target the test taking strategies, and with only a little extra time from your day, you can integrate a bit of social skills curriculum in too (but shhh… don’t tell the politicians, or school administrators.)
Teach Kids to be Thankful with Stone Soup
This time of year I love to sneak in a social skills until with the classic folktale Stone Soup. It is a classic folktale and I know I have read many versions of it over the years. I started teaching my Stone Soup mini-unit many years ago, and while the standards I teach with the text have changed it has remained one of my favorite book units I teach all year.
If you are unfamiliar with the story Wikipedia summarizes it like this:
Some travellers come to a village, carrying nothing more than an empty cooking pot. Upon their arrival, the villagers are unwilling to share any of their food stores with the hungry travellers. Then the travellers go to a stream and fill the pot with water, drop a large stone in it, and place it over a fire. One of the villagers becomes curious and asks what they are doing. The travellers answer that they are making “stone soup”, which tastes wonderful, although it still needs a little bit of garnish to improve the flavour, which they are missing. The villager does not mind parting with a few carrots to help them out, so that gets added to the soup. Another villager walks by, inquiring about the pot, and the travellers again mention their stone soup which has not reached its full potential yet. The villager hands them a little bit of seasoning to help them out. More and more villagers walk by, each adding another ingredient. Finally, a delicious and nourishing pot of soup is enjoyed by all.
Every year around Thanksgiving I use Stone Soup to teach whatever reading strategy is the target at the time for our read-aloud sessions (the strategy is targeted to student assessment results which change frequently).We write refections about the text and in our reading journals.
I also tie the book to our math lessons that week. I kick it off with my students by asking them to each bring in 2 cans of their favorite vegetable to share. When my students bring in their “homework” we sort the cans, count the cans, and create bar graphs on vegetable popularity. The math mini-unit lasts about 3 days.
On the fourth day I begin the morning by asking each child to bring their cans to the carpet. I ask them if anyone has a meal we could share and of course they all say no. As we have been reading stone soup I do occasionally have a student make the connection – but amusingly often I don’t. (Kids can be so cute!) I then tell them that they do have a meal and re-read to them Stone Soup.
After I finish reading I bring out my crockpot, and pour in a couple of cans of V8, and tell them I am making soup. I ask if anyone has some vegetables they could share to make the soup better along the lines of the story. When the crockpot is full we stop adding ingredients.
We then count up how many cans we have left and make predictions about whether or not there is going to be enough soup for everyone when we hadn’t started with any individual having enough food. Then students write/drew (I have completed this lesson with k,1st, & 2nd grade) a piece about the soup that they were making. Later in the day when the soup was ready we served it out along with a corn muffin donated by yours truly. Students discover that when we all share not only do we have enough food for each other, but we had plenty to donate to someone else.
My school hosts a canned goods drive around Thanksgiving every year. After our snack we all walk down to the donation box with the rest of our cans and take turns putting cans in the bin, and having our pictures taken. The next week we use the photos to write a class book about sharing.
It was nice remembering the fun we had and I thought I would share the lesson ideas with you.